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Christmas limbo

My husband and I are both sort of on "vacation," yay! The last week of December, people are still working. But then they have a break until Jan.9th or so. I wouldn't want to need a doctor or anything during this time (lots of people out of town), but it's still nice to have time off.

Andrei and I sat looking at the clock yesterday evening and realized that it was only about 7:30 pm and we were both already home and had eaten and didn't have any work to do. He had stayed up until 2 or 3 a.m. for the past I-don't-know-how-many nights.

We played a board game, had dessert, looked at the clock...it was still before TEN O'CLOCK. So amazing.

It's nice that Christmas and New Year's are on weekends this year. When Christmas is in the middle of the work-week, it just doesn't feel right! This year, we had a Christmas concert on the 23rd....

For once, the songs were thematically-appropriate! Our concerts intended for Christmas and Easter often end up getti…

Thanksgiving

Oh dear, another month went by! Well, I can at least write about how my document saga ended up.

On the day after (American) Thanksgiving, my mother-in-law and I headed back to Immigration. As usual we had run around making photocopies and paying fees at the last minute.

It wasn't my last chance; I still had a Friday or two left before my deadline. But I didn't want it to come down to the last minute.

Nina (my mother-in-law) went in early to get in line so I could rest a little at home and finish getting ready. There were even more people than before, so we were pretty far down on the list. She convinced me to stay home for a few more hours.

Eventually I headed over and we waited the last hour or two together. One of the guys from the previous time was there and raising a ruckus again. He had almost gotten into a fistfight before. We all held our breaths as he barged into the office and argued about something with the Inspector. Then a few people took issue with the schedule po…

What's been on my mind

Recently, I was musing about doing good deeds...just reminiscing about surprises we had arranged for various friends, and how good it felt to witness their joy.

But the Scripture popped into my head:  "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" (Matthew 5:46, 47)


Okay, Lord. If I'm supposed to love my enemies, who are they? Defiant English students? Angry bus-drivers? I was puzzled by this.

I was walking home and saw some migrant workers clearing leaves. They had claimed an old baby buggy to help them carry things around. It was physical labor that probably didn't pay much. And I thought, "I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked." (Psalm 84:10)

So what were these observations going to teach me about love and humility? What was coming next?
contin…

Blood

I was reading about the construction of Solomon's temple and all the decorations, when I was reminded that the temple was not only a place of beauty, but that just outside, animals were slaughtered for the sacrifice.


Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar.  Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey." Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”-Exodus 24:6-8
Maybe we put on fresh clothes to go to church; watch our language; try to put on a happy face. This is all very good, but sometimes we forget that redemption is a messy affair.

It took bloodshed to get us here. I don't know why this image is so vivid for me today in particular, but I want my life to show that I'm thankful.


It's that time of year

Seven years in Russia! That's what mid-October means to me.

It makes me feel old, of course. 10 years ago I was in college! The pre-Russia memories are fading.

Most importantly, there are the prayers God answered that seemed unanswerable back then. Would I ever feel at home? Would I ever be able to discuss my favorite topics in Russian? Would I ever have friends? God answered my questions and provided for needs I wasn't even aware of.


If I'd known about the challenges I would face, would I have chosen differently? What if I had known about the blessings I would receive? Interesting to think about, but futile, of course. God fills in the gaps in His own timing.


And I'm looking forward to seeing what new pieces are going to be filled in, by the time October rolls around again.

Wonderful or tragic?

Intentional immersion...

A few friends called my attention to the NY Times piece about American children "thrown" into a Moscow elementary school. I found the video fascinating and poignant and even showed it to my English students. They liked it too, although they emphasized that it was NOT a typical Russian school!

Although I'm interested in bilingualism, the piece was about more than simply working hard to learn a language.

I found myself weeping a little bit over the contents, and I was musing about why. Obviously the whole experience of living in a place temporarily and making friends and then leaving would be emotional for anyone. But more than that, I think that the piece did a good job of portraying the language barrier in action. The frustration of not understanding the directions; the confused looks when you're making a mess of explaining yourself; the humility of being the only one who doesn't know what's going on, even if everyone around is kind …

Quick update

I miss writing! There are times when I'm catching up on blogging and email, thinking, this is excess socializing. If I write that person or comment on that blog, I'm going to get responses, and then I'll have to reply, and it will just keep going and going and take up precious time. Is it just egotism that makes me want to write about myself so others will read it?

But. Here I am.

Andrei and I are both teaching. He has several subjects that he teaches at the university, as well as one at the seminary. I teach Conversational/Business English at the local branch of an American company. We teach during the day, then come home and have to prepare for the next day.  I actually teach 3 days, then have one day for the orphanage. We've still got our Bible study and all that. We're working on gradually having all of our friends over to see our little nest. I suppose that is the thing to do after you're married.

I want to do some posts on teaching ESL and Sunday school,…

Speaking of youth...

And while I'm on the topic of teenagers...this little girl was about 8 years old when I met her. Now she is 13 (going on 20). I don't visit her orphanage anymore, but I recently heard of a local church doing outreach there, which makes me VERY happy. Oh Lord, bring salvation to these teens!







The youth at my Russian church

When I moved to St. Petersburg I was focused on children’s ministry since I had just been ministering in the summer camps. But my church that I settled into had just a few kids on Sunday mornings, and no teenagers. I didn’t really have anywhere to bring the teenagers I’d met. We did a few McDonald’s outings and such. One girl and I went to the zoo. But really, what teenager wants to hang out with a random 20-something American lady? And furthermore, what Russian parent wants his or her children hanging out with a stranger from the U.S.? At least, that was what I worried about. The good news is that now a lot of those teenagers are grown-up now and it’s not as awkward to go out for coffee. But I remember one boy who took his own life. You only have so much time…

Doing ministry in a big city is different in that local churches don’t necessarily gain a reputation in the neighborhood. “Oh, I know that church, we went to a Christmas program there.” Nothing like that. Parents can’t ask aroun…

Familiar ground

Andrei and I felt unexpectedly blessed to be back at church on Sunday. We hadn’t necessarily been homesick, but we really felt at peace to be back. I think part of it was that it was good to return to the context where we first got to know each other. Many things in marriage are new to us, but if we go back to serving each other as we did in the past, it will be a constant. We were fellow members of the Body before we belonged to each other exclusively.
We serve together, but in different roles. We notice needs, but from different perspectives. And then come together to share.
Of course another, more human part of it is that it’s good to feel useful. But while it's nice to hear that we were missed, we know that everything was perfectly fine, if not better, in our absence. :)
 A new school year is starting, and this, too, feels familiar. NOW the creative juices are flowing and the fingers are tapping away at the keyboard making lesson plans. We are getting back into the rhythm.
 But ch…

Being alone

I remember a time when my only lover was God. He was the only one who knew my innermost secrets. 

It is quite possible to be single and not a bit lonely, when you have a Faithful Friend. Of course you can wonder about the possibility of having a companion, but it is not necessary to be sad, because single life can be quite full. But I am already losing the perspective I had then, so I'm glad to have journal entries to remind me.

I was lying awake due to jet-lag a few nights ago, while a special person lay snoring sleeping next to me. I wondered...had anything really changed in the past month? Here I was, lying awake again in the darkness...hadn't I forgotten about Someone who used to keep me company?

When Andrei and I were on vacation, we got up fairly late, and it felt awkward to separate for individual prayer time. We did everything together. Sometimes we would both sit at our computers, though not for long. Maybe in the evening I would read a chapter or two while Andrei jou…

Here we are

It was interesting to reminisce as we arrived at Pulkovo airport yesterday after a honeymoon trip.

Last summer, Andrei met me at the airport as I returned from a trip to the States. He often did this to help me out, even though it meant carrying one of my 50-pound suitcases in each hand as we took a bus, then the metro, then made our way up to the 4th floor or wherever I was living at the time.

But the thing is that we weren't dating at that time. So last July I was standing there at baggage claim, very glad that Andrei was waiting outside, but wishing that he had a deeper motive for meeting me at the airport. A hug would be nice, or flowers...or a surprise declaration of love? Then again, that would have been rather odd as we hadn't discussed anything beyond friendship, at least in any more than hypothetical terms.

He met me as promised in the waiting area, and accompanied me and my bags all the way to the new apartment where I was going to be living. The one where he would h…

A new union

We had such a wonderful wedding! Maybe everyone says that about their own, but almost a week later we are still feeling so touched and grateful to everyone who helped to make our day meaningful. More later...


How we got married the first time

It feels awkward writing about being legally married and making wedding plans at the same time.


So here's the truth: Andrei and I had our civil wedding ceremony on April 17th of this year. I hadn't wanted to make a big deal out of it because Russians DO make a big deal out of it, and we want the spotlight to be on our church wedding.

Whenever we mention to someone here that we already had our "registration," we get a big CONGRATS and "I didn't know! Already? When?"

Sometimes we wear our wedding rings, like when getting my new passport, or going for Andrei's U.S. visa. Legally we were allowed to do all this, as husband and wife. But in general we won't consider ourselves truly married until we've had the church ceremony.

So that's that. Just wanted to clear up any confusion. And now, for the civil wedding report: continue/-

After taking care of some necessary paperwork and applying for a marriage license, we had signed up to be legally m…

Another orphanage update

I must have gotten sidetracked, as I never did finish my orphanage series that I started a few months ago.

I only visited one orphanage regularly this past school year as I felt that the doors were finally closed at the other one...the one that had always presented a challenge.

Then a woman contacted me from a local church. It turns out that she had found me through a mutual friend online and seen photos of familiar kids while perusing my photo albums. First she seemed suspicious as to how I knew the kids, and then we figured out that we were both Christians and reaching out to the kids with a common goal.

They had been visiting the kids in the orphanage too, doing crafts, organizing parties, and even inviting some of the kids to their homes.

The current administration doesn't let the church group visit anymore, so they're now in the same position as I am: wondering if there is a way to continue this ministry, and if so, how?

But it turns out that God has been answering my pra…

"When David slew Goliath (yes!)...

....that was a miracle, too."

Today I was on the way to get the decision from Immigration about my new passport. I was really trying to walk in faith, and I remembered the "Miracle of Miracles" song (from Fiddler on the Roof), which I have never found very appealing musically. But suddenly, the lyrics seemed appropriate. I needed my miracle.

The waiting area was as tense and sober as usual. I thought to myself, even if I were completely confident about the state of my own documents, I would still be nearly brought to my knees out of compassion for all of the others. So much confusion and despair and frustration. Where to go, what to write on the form, how to get some answers when the line is so long and the working hours so few. I feel raw inside each time I go there.

As a Christian, shouldn't I be immune from fear? But I can't live without emotions. We are IN the world, even if we are not of this world. And the words came to me: salt...yeast...just a little bit…

Heartache

"We have sad news in the orphanage." I felt like my heart stopped when Galina told me that today during our weekly tutoring session.

I immediately started thinking of the "older" ladies who worked at the orphanage. I hoped nothing had happened to one of them.

"It's Liosha," said Galina. "His parents are not coming to get him. The adoption is not going to happen. Liosha cried when he found out, and he went to camp yesterday."

My heart was breaking for Liosha at this news. Out of all the wounded kids, his pain and loneliness gets to me the most. Galina said that when he came to the orphanage he used to just sit under a desk, afraid to come out.

He was afraid of me too, for a while. But nowadays I can get a playful smile.

Getting adopted seemed like the best thing that could happen to Liosha. He is so fragile emotionally, though he is a kind, smart boy. I just can't picture his future after graduating from the orphanage. A new life in Calif…

Yes and maybe

Today was a somewhat crucial day as far as some of the goals we've been working towards for the summer.


1) At 8:30 in the morning, Andrei had his visa interview at the U.S. Consulate. We had heard rumors that spouses aren't guaranteed non-immigrant/tourist visas since they might be just using their new marital status as an excuse to emigrate. The general approach is that the Consulate assumes the applicant will be tempted to stay in the U.S., and therefore he should prove that he has ties to his home country.

Andrei and I got a few letters of recommendation and could have taken some steps to prove our relationship is legitimate, etc. However, Andrei felt that he just needed to tell the truth and not embellish, nor hide anything. So he headed into the Consulate at 8:30 this morning and emerged within an hour with an orange card...that means YES.

2) After picking up the translations of my latest documents (including the letterhead and stamp of a few documents that were otherwise…

When candids go wrong

Ummmm....not quite what Andrei and I had in mind when we were looking for a home appropriate for having guests over...:)


Don't I look like the most welcoming hostess? Tea, anyone?


more photos/-
But in the end, everyone was full and happy...



Old life meets new

My college professor is in town! We met for coffee today and I got to show off my fiance, who always has lots of interesting cultural facts to share. :)



 Andrei and I were asked to speak to the group of students from my university that are here for a summer exchange program. Stay tuned for part 2 in July...





Rejected again

I had the idea of going to the Consulate again. After all, they got me my (currently disputed) passport, and they can intercede for citizens, even when it's outside the realm of their usual services.

At the same time I wrote an e-mail to the Embassy in Moscow, thinking that since there are more U.S. citizens there, they might have seen this problem before.

The lady from the Consulate in St. P. called me right away and suggested a few options. It was nice of her to be so responsive. She described another letter that she can get for me, but I explained that it will not be accepted without legalization. It turns out that the problem with getting it legalized is that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can't confirm the signature of the Consul in St. Petersburg!

She said she would make some phone calls and get back to me. Today, the word was that she had called both the Wedding Palace and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and once again, both offices refuse to do what Immigration has d…

Bureaucracy at its "best"

The officials have done a really good job this time, sending us from office to office without anyone wanting to take responsibility and give an answer. Apparently our case is strange and perplexing. Who would have thought?

3 weeks ago (seems like longer), I spent the day at Immigration, having spent a month collecting all the documents they'd requested. Since then, we have tried several different options, none of which have been fruitful (yet).

Week One
Friday: Immigration: they are confused. I am distraught.
The following Tuesday: Immigration: they still are confused. I am calmer, but longing to be understood.
Thursday: The committee at Immigration gives us two options: We can go to Moscow (they already told us no) or go to the wedding archives. The people at the wedding archives are confused and send us to get a document. The document guy won't be in his office until Monday.

Week Two
Monday: Meet with professor guy who can get us the document.
Tuesday: The document isn't re…

Letting go

I got a new phone the other day because my other one was dying, and it took a certain amount of effort to transfer the contacts between the two. But I actually received an unexpected blessing going through those contacts, in the form of memories.

My tendency to accumulate things extends even as far as my address book, and I looked at the list and decided it was time to prune...why was THAT person still in there? Surely I could do a little pruning in this area of life, at least.

But it wasn't so easy. My first year here was FULL of encounters with various interesting people. I was very prayerful about how I spent my time, and about each relationship. Perhaps it happens for many missionaries or any Christian servants, that they expect miracles at first and look at each day with such hope and anticipation...

No, I know it was hard. I didn't know Russian as well then, and everything was new and strange. But I sought the Lord, and He was with me.

And I look at the names of people w…

Another week gone by

I'm a lot calmer than this time last week. For one thing, the dreaded packing and moving is over! I'm already in the apartment where we'll live together after the wedding. I haven't had much strength to put anything away, but the hard part is over.

Andrei and I went back to Immigration twice this week. The first time was to argue our case. We got in line at 8:00 in the morning and it wasn't our turn until 6pm. They were taking about 1 person an hour. I was calmer though with A. there and everyone praying for me. I had clarified a few things, but the Inspector still wouldn't accept my new passport. She said I needed some kind of proof that I had changed my name and all the documents matched. We were arguing in circles.

-"On what basis did you change your name?"

"On the basis of the marriage certificate."

-"But the name on the marriage certificate is different."

"But the marriage certificate is what I used to change my name.&quo…

Irreversible

Now that I'm a bit calmer, I can write about what's happening. I think it's important to write about trials, so that I can praise God later for them. Maybe by the time some of you read this, it will even be resolved. :)

I went ahead and got a new passport, with my new last name...after doing plenty of research to make sure my residency status would be transferable.

The line to visit the local authorities was very long, to put it mildly. Oh, the atmosphere of that waiting room...so terrifying. How many people's lives has it changed? The pacing, the biting of the nails, the rocking back and forth as people on the last day of their visas try desperately to get an extension. Or they wait in line for days to pay a fine, and the fine grows while they wait.

Anything to not go insane! I tried praying, singing, reading, thinking about hope in general...but thoughts kept going to the clock and The List of people in front of me.

The fact that I made it into the room to see The In…

Fun changes

Introducing...

The Love Nest! :)
This is where we're going to live after the wedding...actually, I'm moving in first, sometime next week. These are the "before" photos-we haven't made any changes or cleaned anything up since getting the keys.

The wallpaper is new. Through that little door is a closed-in porch that we can use for storage. The furniture is "older," but has character. ;)



more photos/-







Part 2 of The Bird plus The Passport

(Read the previous post first.)

On Wednesday night I was finishing up blogging and e-mailing when my roommate knocked on my door at about 1am..."he's still here."

Apparently we hadn't checked very thoroughly for Mr.Pigeon, and he had been there all along, all through Bible study, without so much as a peep. Now that the lights were out and all was silent, he had started flapping around again behind the wall of shelves in Yulia's room, and she didn't particularly want to sleep in the same room. So she got in the spare bed in my room and we left Mr. Pigeon alone for the night.

On Thursday morning, he was still there, sometimes sitting still and sometimes pacing a little bit back and forth. No signs of trying to get out.

Andrei came to our rescue on his lunch break. He moved the heavy shelves out of the way enough to get access to Mr. Pigeon. But he ended up having to grab Mr. Pigeon with a cloth and manually carry him out onto the balcony, because that bird wasn…

An intruder

I wanted to pick up my new passport today, but the Consulate hasn't informed me yet of its readiness. I had cleared my schedule anyway, so I was home, throwing everything on the floor doing some spring cleaning.

Suddenly I heard a creeeeak. I freaked myself out with thoughts of the boogey-man visiting, but I attributed the noises to the windows being open and causing things to flutter around in the breeze.

I headed to the front door to put my shoes on and do some grocery shopping, and came face-to-face with a pigeon. It was just bobbing along down the hallway, blinking its eyes. Ummmm....that thing was NOT supposed to be inside!

I guess I thought it would just go "toward the light," or in this case, the open balcony door. No screens here, just some gauzy material to filter out insects and other creatures. I opened the door wider and pulled the curtains aside. A pretty wide target.

Pigeons, it turns out, cannot be shooed. Ever noticed how they just flutter about 2 feet a…

To whom?

To WHOM? (meaning, 'who have you come to visit?') This is often barked at me when I enter Russian establishments. I mean, the kind of establishments that have guards. To be even more precise, certain apartment buildings, and orphanages, and even the Consulate.

I have been grappling with why this is such a strange question for me, as an American.  Do we even demand to know people's business as they arrive? Or is it always something super-polite, as in, "How may I help you?" What question would they ask in other countries around the world?

It used to irk me at the orphanage, and actually it still does, because I'm always ready to say who I am, but then they ask whom I'm looking for. I know I should learn the right answer, but I usually end up saying something like "everyone" or "the children" since I go around to different groups. Really, I'm supposed to say "Group 2," or the counselor's name there. They want to know th…

To America and back in one hour

Don't know if it was risky to go to the U.S. Consulate today or not. In Moscow, maybe. But they don't seem to be likely targets for "activity."

I successfully applied for my new passport today (after filling out the form a few times). When I pick it up next week, I will have to get it translated in a hurry and dash over to the local authorities to get my residency stamp transferred. Foreigners must be registered here within 3 days, and my old registration will be canceled along with my old passport.

The scene at the Consulate hasn't changed much over the past few years. What has changed is the new "appointment" system. It seems like a joke because there is NEVER a line at Citizen Services. Well, maybe I've had to wait a few minutes while they dealt with someone else or did something paperworky in the back. But in general, it's a ghost town.

I suppose they want to 1) know exactly who is going to be coming to the Consulate on a given day and 2) re…

An age-old or modern problem?

"Well, you dress like a little girl, for one thing."

"I am a little girl, so why shouldn't I?"

-Louisa May Alcott, An Old-Fashioned Girl, page 10

I read this book for the first time recently, and quite enjoyed getting to know the main character, "old-fashioned" Polly. I've noticed some social commentary lately on how young girls dress, and here in Russia their wardrobe choice is an issue as well.

It's not so much that Russian girls dress more or less scantily than in other countries, but there is a lot of premature sophistication, in my opinion. I'm almost 30, and there are eight-yr-olds more sophisticated than I am. The heels, the pea-coats, the perfectly coiffed hair...Is it a problem or not to dress older than one's age? That's debatable.

What I liked about the girl in this book was that she herself was conscious of how she differed from her vain peers, yet she stood firm. It is one thing for parents to set rules about modesty, …

A happy accident

The wedding is three months away and Andrei and I have virtually no photos together, aside from a few candids. I used to scoff at the idea of "engagement" photo shoots, but now I understand why it is a good season of life to immortalize.

We haven't been able to schedule a photo shoot for various reasons, but we were walking in the park on Sunday when we suddenly ran into a friend from church, camera in tow. Before we could even react, he snapped our photo. And there you have it.




Orphanage update #1

Everything is going pretty well with visiting the orphanage regularly. I do a lot of tutoring English. I also witness a lot of the kids' "growing pains," since I sit at a table right in the middle of their group. Oh, the drama.

Some time ago I mentioned a new girl, Dasha. As new kids have been coming in, I've been noticing the power struggles. A new kid either makes a name for himself among the other kids by doing something bad early on (skipping class together, obtaining cigarettes, etc.), or he keeps to himself and is ostracized.

Unfortunately, Dasha hasn't made a friend in the group. She has not even acquired a "partner in-crime," which is how so many of the friendships start out. The counselors praise her studiousness, though they do not seem to be doing anything to help her develop her social skills. I saw her giggling a little when the boys teased, and I thought perhaps she was going to break into normal adolescence. But the teasing took on more o…

Easter in Russia

It's a good thing the Easter cakes were officially blessed by the priest yesterday! That means we can eat them, right?

Apparently the priest personally showed up personally at the grocery store to perform the honors. Typically, people take their Easter eggs and cake and I don't know what else to church with them to get the food "blessed" before the Easter feast.





Sweet Harmony

I was looking for some hymns online and came across this family of singers. I was so inspired by their crisp harmony, so worshipful. I almost wanted to dance!

Listen to "How Beautiful":

A way of life

I used to get a multi-entry visa to Russia once a year, and that was it, besides the occasional trip out of the country for registration purposes.

Then things got more complicated, and I thought...now if I just had a residency permit, I wouldn't have to "worry" about visas again.

As I got closer to getting my residency permit, I looked forward to the days when I would be free from bureaucracy. And there is a sense of freedom, in a way. But as my documents were finalized, I noticed the line for the people who were there for their annual inspection, from which I will not be exempt. Now I had a different thought: this is my life.

Of course it isn't my life in the sense that it's my purpose. But it is something that will remain constant. I can see that now as I imagine how even the next year will go, with lots of bureaucratic processes to endure. But there is no other way to live.

God is not going to take away this burden, although He may give me favor with the offic…

A matter of life and death

He is not the God of the dead but of the living. -Matthew 22:32

I'm not sure why, but this verse has come up again and again in the past several months, starting in the fall at a church retreat.

One of the church's leaders had just lost his mother that day, and the pastor implored us to meditate on this verse. Among Russian Orthodox believers there is a practice of praying for the Lord's mercy on the spirit of the dead, as it passes through the journey to its final destination. But the Lord wants to meet with us in this life. It is here where we make our decision, and if we choose life, He will still be our God...not the Lord over our dead bodies, but the Lord of our new, eternal flesh.

Then I was talking to a friend who was favoring a "catch-all" sort of spiritual mindset. She was okay with most religions, and astrology and divination were just fine, too. As I explained that my views were a little narrower, she asked "Do you believe in ghosts?" I said…

Another (more serious) book on marriage

When I mentioned "heavy" books on marriage that I was reading, this was one of them. But I think the heaviness that I felt reading John Piper's "This Momentary Marriage" is more about the weight of His glory than about something sad. It's all quite positive, because it is God's plan, and all that He created is good. But it is also a great responsibility.

(You can download "This Momentary Marriage" for free from John Piper's website.*)

Something old, something new

Many of the marriage-related topics addressed in this book (forgiveness, gender roles, etc.) can be found in the sermons posted on desiringgod.org. I had listened to several of them recently, so I recognized the material.

Yes, he offers commentary on the "same old" passages, such as Ephesians 5. But he expands on them in such a way that I received many new nuggets of insight that I hope to apply in my own life.

Grounds for marriage

Early on in the book, Piper quotes Colos…